Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff talked about a reboot going into Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It didn’t solve several key problems. Once again, mistakes proved costly and the goals against piled up in a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Turnovers were a problem again for the Stars, including on the first shift of the game when the Leafs scored to take a lead they would never relinquish.
“I think when you start the game with a turnover and it’s in the back of your net, when I turned the puck over, it’s not a good way to start,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn.
And it would not get any better than that. The Leafs led 2-0 after one period and extended it to 3-0 in the first minute of the second. The Stars were able to cut into the lead twice only to have Toronto answer to push the lead back to three goals.
“It’s definitely not the way we want to start the game. The same thing happened in the second period too. First minute, they score and that takes the life out of us,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who allowed five goals on 40 shots. “We were in it for a little while and we keep battling back. The Leafs were able to always answer on our goals, so just a rough night for everybody.”
The Stars have allowed five goals in three straight games and now rank 30th in the league in goals against at 3.52 per game. They’ve allowed five goals or more in five of their past eight games.
The Stars needed some offense on this night, and the power play didn’t help the cause. It went 0-5 and failed to score for the ninth time in the past ten games. It didn’t register a shot on goal during a 90-second five-on-three opportunity in the third period that could have helped get the Stars back in the game.
“Our five-on-three was awful,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “It was probably the biggest negative in the game.”
The loss was the third straight for the Stars (0-2-1) and dropped them to 9-11-5 on the season.
Joffrey Lupul scored two goals and Nazem Kadri had one goal and two assists for the Maple Leafs, who ran their points streak to five games (4-0-1) and improved to 13-8-3 on the season.
“Right now we are playing with a lot of confidence,” said Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 35 of 38 shots. “We score a lot of goals and our PK tonight, five-on-three and no shots, that is pretty big.”
The Maple Leafs scored 27 seconds into the game when the Stars turned the puck over in their end, and Tyler Bozak scored from the slot to make it 1-0 game.
“Just tried to shoot it through a screen and was lucky enough that it went in,” Bozak said. “It was nice to start like that.”
“Just an awkward shot. I don’t know if it hit something,” Lehtonen said. “You’re trying to get going in the game and when the first one goes in, that’s always bad. It took me a couple of shots to kind of get going again. It seemed like every time I made some good saves, a couple minutes later, they scored and fighting again to try to feel comfortable there. Just a disappointing night.”
Toronto extended the lead to 2-0 late in the first, taking advantage of another Dallas turnover. The result was Kadri scoring off a blast from the left circle at the 15:16 mark.
The Maple Leafs started the second period with 1:27 of power play time and quickly cashed in to make it a 3-0 game. Phil Kessel scored on a shot from the left circle with James van Riemsdyk setting a screen 56 seconds into the period.
The Stars cut the lead to 3-1 at 5:06 of the second when Spezza scored off a blast from the right circle off the rush. But Toronto answered midway through the period, cashing in on another Dallas turnover. This one resulted in Lupul banging home the rebound of a Cody Franson shot to give Toronto a 4-1 lead at 9:31 of the second.
Garbutt scored on a rebound at 2:11 of the third to make it a 4-2 game, but Lupul scored from close range a little more than three minutes later to extend the lead to 5-2.
The Stars had a chance to cut into the lead with 90 seconds of five-on-three power play time seven minutes into the period, but couldn’t get a shot on goal. Toronto limited the Stars to a total of four shots on five power play opportunities.
“You cannot have subpar penalty killing in the NHL and have success,” said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. “You can have a subpar power play and still win, but once you have subpar penalty killing your chances of having success are going to drop like a rock.”
Hemsky scored with 4:35 left to make it a 5-3 game. The Stars put on pressure the rest of the way, but they couldn’t get any closer and suffered their third straight loss.
“It’s just not playing the right way,” said Benn. ““We’ve got to get it in our heads that it’s got to go straight up the ice. It’s got to be direct. That’s the way we’re going to win hockey games.”
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left Tuesday’s game late in the second period after getting hit near his ankle with a shot. His status going forward is not known.
*Toronto outshot the Stars 40-38.
*The Stars have allowed 40 or more shots in four of their past eight games.
*Dallas was 0-5 on the power play and 6-7 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars were shorthanded seven times for the second straight game.
*Dallas won 38 of 68 faceoffs (56 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 10 of 11 faceoffs (91 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 14 (64 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 20 (40 percent). Tyler Seguin won 3 of 10 (30 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 22:51 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Ales Hemsky
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Jamie Oleksiak – John Klingberg
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Colton Sceviour
Injured: Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.